A Brief History of Devon

Research has suggested Devon County has a long history that dates at least to the Stone Age. As the ice retreated at the end of the last ice age, Devon was among the first places to be settled.

The history up on Dartmoor dates back at least 8,000 years. Before the arrival of modern humans, the area was an oak forest rather than a moorland. We cleared and burned the land, which later transformed into moorland. The Neolithic peoples settled and farmed the land when farming technology arrived, leaving behind some of the most recognizable prehistoric artefacts in the UK, including enormous granite stone circles, menhirs, burial mounds, and settlements.

Roman Arrival…

The ultimate source of the name Devon is Dumnonii. It is assumed to relate to a Celtic tribe that was present during the Roman invasion in Cornwall and Devon. Nobody is certain, although the name may imply “deep valley dwellers” or “worshippers of the god Dumnonos.” Similar to Cornwall, a local tribe’s name came to denote the region in which they were found. The name persisted as they vanished or altered, finally becoming Devon.

Arrival of the Anglo-saxons…

The Anglo-Saxons arrived from what is now Germany and Holland and spread from the east coast of England to eventually conquer the majority of the island. By the mid-nineth century, they had overrun and subdued the Cornish and Devonshire people. Devon would never be free of English control again. After the death of the last king of Cornwall, the Western Peninsula began its steady demise as a culture distinct from the English.

Norman Invasion…

Exeter resisted the Normans so well that King William was only permitted to enter the city on honorable conditions. He recognized Exeter’s significance, and it continued to play significant roles in the rebellions of the next several hundred years. During the Wars of the Roses, the French invaded England multiple times through Devon, and the Yorkists and Lancastrians fought engagements across the county.


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